A town guide to Kings Hill
- Credit: Archant
Modern housing, well-tended green spaces, great leisure opportunities and a fascinating history; Kings Hill may be a young community but it’s got plenty going on
Originally a medieval hunting ground, known as Kings Wood, Kings Hill’s position as one of the highest points in Kent set it on a very different course during the early years of flight.
Parts of the wood were cleared to create an emergency landing strip for aircraft during the First World War, and the rest is aviation history.
Becoming a private airfield and home to a flying school between the wars, it was called into service again in 1940 and became RAF West Malling. A fighter command section station, with squadrons running missions over France and Germany, famous ‘Dambuster’ Guy Gibson was stationed here.
It remained in use by the RAF, and at one point the Navy, until the early 1970s, when the Ministry of Defence sold it to KCC. In 1989 the council went into partnership with developers Liberty Property Trust to transform the disused land into a mixed-use development with new homes, schools, a business park and retail and leisure amenities.
The result was Kings Hill but, as the new community continues to grow, it never forgets the key part it played in our nation’s past. The history of RAF West Malling is remembered in everything from public art installations to road names and even the local pub – The Spitfire.
Nothing sums up the former airfield quite as well as the Control Tower. Built in 1942 and Grade II listed, the Art Deco-inspired tower was built to oversee take-offs and landings and is one of the best examples of its type still standing. It now provides the centerpiece for the new piazza part of Liberty Square, the retail centre of Kings Hill.
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As well as restoring the original tower, two extensions were added, meaning the building can now house a cultural centre for use by the community and a Costa coffee shop.
Public art is another big feature, with several interesting installations. Look out for the series of artworks outside the Control Tower called Kings Hill: A Place of Landings. It comprises 12 brass reliefs, 11 featuring the kinds of aircraft that would have been stationed there.
The last relief is of the Magical Mystery Tour bus, marking the day The Beatles came to film part of their 1967 movie at the airfield. You can also follow word trails around Liberty Square and read some of the stories and quotes about Kings Hill provided by the community.
The village aims to provide somewhere to live, work and play so there are leisure and sporting opportunities galore. Kings Hill Sports Park offers grass pitches and tennis courts, while golf lovers are provided for by Kings Hill Golf Club. Fitness fans head for the fabulous David Lloyd club, which has both indoor and outdoor swimming and tennis.
Community clubs include cycling, cricket, tennis and football. There’s a Kings Hill branch of the WI and a Kings Hill Brownies unit, along with dozens of classes and groups meeting every week at the busy community centre.
There are regular outdoor film screenings and this year will see the 10th annual Kings Hill Music Festival at The Spitfire pub on 7 July and Park Life at the Sports Park on 21 July.
Kings Hill’s business centre, Churchill Square, was first registered as Maidstone Airport in 1932 and from June 1940 was used as a fighter station by the RAF during the Second World War. Today it has eight individual buildings containing dozens of different offices, including Kent Life favourite Illuminate Skin Clinic in Building 60 (see p101); the eighth block, building 80, has recently opened.
Keeping Kings Hill green
Styled as a ‘garden village’, Kings Hill’s developers take the inclusion of green space very seriously. The development is criss-crossed by a series of paths for pedestrians and cyclists, known as ‘greenways’, which aim to add a little greenery as well as encourage residents to leave the car at home.
And the area even has its own nature park. Opened to the public in 2011, Warren Woods Nature Park extends across 46 acres of native woodland and it’s a delightful natural space for dog walkers, runners and families on nature walks. Its footpaths link to existing rights of way for walks through to East Malling, Teston, Wateringbury and beyond.
Kings Hill is so keen to be green that the village has won gold and silver-gilt awards in the South and South East in Bloom competition for the second year in a row. It even has allotments, located at the Kings Hill Sports Park. Opened in 2015 and managed by the Parish Council, the demand has been so high that there’s a waiting list and further allotment land has been planned into the next phase of development.
And last year it was announced that a new park had been given the go-ahead. Around the size of three football pitches, the park will be split into a number of distinct areas, to include avenues of trees, natural parkland, feature planting, public art and a children’s play area.
One of the features will be the rare Pickett-Hamilton fort that already exists on the site. The cylinder-shaped gun tower was once used to defend the airfield and has been designated a monument of national importance. Groundworks on the park have already begun and it should be completed in the autumn.
Eating and shopping
There’s pretty much everything you could need in Kings Hill so unsurprisingly there’s a popular pub - Shepherd Neame’s The Spitfire - as well as two branches of Costa, a Domino’s pizza outlet, Humphrey’s of Kings Hill fish and chips, Memphis Belle sandwich bar, the Gufaa Raja Indian restaurant, Sino Chinese and Thai Orchid. Neighbouring town West Malling has several excellent eateries too, including The Farm House, The Scared Crow, Franks and The Swan.
Everyday needs are covered, with Asda and Waitrose stores, a pharmacy and much more at Liberty Square, along with great shopping in the independent boutiques and gift shops of West Malling.
Kings Hill’s residential areas are arranged in distinct neighbourhoods and tend to be set around focal points such as the village green, cricket ground and golf course. Prices currently start at around £240,000 for a two-bedroom apartment, with three-bed houses priced from £345,000. Detached four-bed houses are priced between £540,000 and £700,000, with larger homes available right up to £900,000.
Visit www.kings-hill.com for details of the new-build homes coming soon.
Kings Hill is close to West Malling, about nine miles west of Maidstone. The journey to London Victoria takes around 50 minutes from the nearby West Malling station, and both the M20 and M25 are easily accessible.
Sat nav: ME19 4AU.
Postcard from Kings Hill
My name is Nick McGeorge and I’m lucky enough to be the chairman of the Kings Hill Cricket Club. I’m married to Sue and we have four kids. I’ve been involved with the club for nearly 10 years, firstly as a player, then as a committee member and in the chairman’s role for the last three. Sue is an active member of the club’s social committee and all the kids play either in the seniors or as part of the incredible junior section (my daughter Betty has just been selected for Kent U11).
The club was established in 2006 as a travelling club but we moved to our existing location in Tiffen Way when the ground and pavilion were completed in 2010. The club has grown beyond all recognition and we now have two Saturday teams and two Sunday teams.
Following five promotions in six years, the Saturday 1st XI have now been promoted into the full Kent League and have aspirations to reach the upper tiers. A key driver for the club is connecting with the community and we host a number of functions for local schools, Kent County junior fixtures, Kent Visually Impaired County matches and a range of disability sport fixtures.
The Hangar Bar has become so much more than just the bar at the cricket club. Friday nights during the summer regularly see two to three hundred people gather, not only for the junior training but to enjoy a lovely outside space on a summer evening. The bar is also now open every Friday night throughout the year and hosts regular events. Run by the tremendously hard-working Dave Shepherd, supported by an amazing social committee, it is quickly becoming a favourite meeting place for the local community.
Kings Hill is a great place to live. As well as being a good location for access into London, you are only minutes away from the Garden of England. To my mind, the real joy of Kings Hill is the people. It’s a very family focused community evidenced by the huge number of sports and social clubs which are all thriving.
My favourite part of Kings Hill has to be the Cricket Club, but I would say that! Kings Hill is also a great place for walking; there are loads of tracks throughout the development, the adjacent woods and around the golf course. We’re also very spoilt for restaurants, with a great Indian, Chinese and Thai. West Malling has a great selection of pubs and restaurants too.